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I recently started reading a book in a series that I quit reading years ago. Why? A few years ago, my husband bought me the latest book in this series as a Christmas gift. At the time, I thought I wanted to read it. But after book six or seven, I couldn't take the series anymore. And the big reason was the POV. It changed out of the blue. I don't like when a series begins with one MC narrating and then all of a sudden three or four books in, we have multiple narrators. I've never understood this. I get attached to the POV and I don't want it to change.
But I've had this book on my shelf, and I felt obligated to give it a chance. After all, I liked the first three books in the series (before the POV change) and I thought now that time had past, I'd be more open to giving the series another try. Well...I'm trying. I really am. But I find myself cringing when yet another POV is introduced. A minor character's POV. I'll be the first to admit that seeing a scene from another character's POV can be interesting. It offers new insight. But I don't want to be inside every character's head. It's too much. I feel like I know everything that's going on and the poor MC is clueless. I'd rather discover things alongside her.
How do you feel about books that introduce a new POV late in the story/series?
Once upon a time I thought that finding an agent was the answer to becoming a successful writer. I queried, jumped for joy when I got requests for fulls, and cried when I got rejections. In February of 2011, I received an offer of representation, and I was elated. I accepted that offer a few days later and thought I'd have an agent for life.
Not every story has a happy ending. On the first of this month, my agency closed. What does that mean? I no longer have an agent. I'm querying once again. I cried. I really didn't see myself in this situation again, yet here I am. Is it the end of the world? No. I've come to terms with the fact that things happen. I wasn't let go because I'm a bad writer. I'm simply looking for new representation because my agent isn't agenting anymore. I can deal with that.
Of course, I'm also scared. Querying isn't fun. But at the end of the day, I want someone representing me and my work, especially since I'm now writing under two names. So I'm querying. Wish me luck, please.
Have you ever noticed that TV shows and movies have a lot of inconsistencies in them? Let me give you an example. In the TV series Friends Chandler is afraid of dogs in one episode, but not in another. My daughter used to watch the show Victorious and in one episode, they say there was never a prom at Hollywood Arts (the high school on the show), but in the pilot episode, one girl complains that no one asked her to last year's prom. Another big example is in the movie Jurassic Park. One minute there's a goat tied up in the T-Rex pen. Then the power is cut and the T-Rex pen is suddenly a cliff that the Jeep falls over. Huh? The producer even admitted he changed that to make the scene more dramatic.
I notice these things all the time. Maybe it's because as a freelance editor, I look for inconsistencies in my clients' manuscripts. It's part of my job to make sure the book is consistent from start to finish. So why do TV and movie writers get to take liberties with these things when authors can't? It's baffled me for years.
Have you noticed inconsistencies like this? Why do you think TV and movies can get away with them?
Blog: Kelly Hashway's Blog
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I've been talking about this announcement for a little while now, and I honestly feel the only way to make it is "in person". I understand anyone viewing this at work (I'm smiling at those of you who I know read my blog at work.) won't be able to see this until you go home, and I apologize for that. But I have to do this as close to in person as I can get.
So here's my big announcement, which is actually a confession.
Today, I'm turning my blog over to Gail Martin, a fellow Broad Universe member, and she's got a great post about the line between horror and urban fantasy. So, take it away, Gail!
Where's the line between horror and urban fantasy?
I read a lot of urban fantasy, and I'll have my own urban fantasy series coming out from Solaris Books in 2014, and I've been wondering: Where's the line between horror and urban fantasy? I suspect it's been shifting around. (And I'd love to hear your opinions, so please comment!) After all, Laurell K. Hamilton started out shelved in horror, then became her own brand of urban fantasy, took a detour into erotica, and seems to have come back to something in between urban fantasy and suspense. And yet, most of the usual tropes in urban fantasy were standard horror themes not too very long ago. Remember when vampires were the bad guys? They've made such a thorough transition to becoming the sexy love interest that I suspect they hired a Madison Avenue PR firm to do some reputation management. Ditto werewolves and demons. We've even seen the softer side of zombies and the soulful side (pun intended) of ghosts. I’m only partly kidding when I say that horror now seems to be focused on people as monsters, and urban fantasy seems to be focused on monsters as people. I suspect there's some deep commentary on society today hidden in there, but I don't know what it is. Here's where I see the divide between horror and urban fantasy--feel free to disagree. In horror, whether the "monster" is human or some kind of creature, the monster has the upper hand for nearly the entire story. There's a sense of helplessness that seems to be essential to horror, a creeping sense of inevitable death. Even though the main character in horror might find a way to survive and vanquish the big bad at the very end, he or she is less a hero than a survivor. In urban fantasy, whether you’re human, non-human, mortal or undead, it's the thought that counts. In other words, do you intend to be the hero or the villain? Urban fantasy looks beyond the stereotypes to create characters that retain their volition and morality regardless of whether they're alive, dead or something in between. As I'm fond of saying, being dead doesn't automatically make you a bad person. Urban fantasy also has a clear hero who emerges, and while things may get grim, the lack of control and helplessness that helps to create the atmosphere of a horror story is either absent or brief. The main character is a hero, not just a survivor. Everything's gotten grittier, but I'd also say that while urban fantasy can certainly have its share of blood and gore, it's less over-the-top than horror and exists to make a point instead of being its own point. And finally, in urban fantasy, when the book ends there's the feeling of "we won!" as opposed to "we made it out alive." That's my 2-cents, and I'd love to know your thoughts. Thanks for reading. Come check out all the free excerpts, book giveaways and other goodies that are part of my Days of the Dead blog tour! Trick-or-Treat you way through more than 30 partner sites where you'll find brand new interviews, freebies and more--details at www.AscendantKingdoms.com. Ice Forged will be a Kindle Daily Deal with a special one-day price of just $1.99 only on October 31! Get it here: http://amzn.com/B008AS86QY Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books. My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures. About the author: Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga and the upcoming Reign of Ash(Orbit Books, 2014), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn and The Dread) from Orbit Books. In 2014, Gail launches a new urban fantasy novel, Deadly Curiosities, from Solaris Books. She is also the author of two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures. Find her at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com.
Browsing the new book section of my local library the other day, I spotted a collection of essays and stories featuring writers in my area, the majority of whom had attended the same workshop. Curious about local talent, I checked it out. It was an interesting read, but not because of the quality of the work. None were horrible, just numbingly boring and surprisingly similar given that they were men and women of different ages and experiences.
I skimmed through the beginning of each one, and when nothing caught my interest, skipped to the next. There were more than a dozen stories in all, and I only read one through to the end. It wasn't perfect by any means. A personal essay relating the author's experiences with cooking to her three marriages, it rambled at times, wasn't structured particularly well, and its point was far from original. So why did I read it through? The writer had a distinct and original voice, one that drew me in and made me want to know more about her. It wasn't a sophisticated voice, but it was authentic. The writer was telling me about her world as she experienced it.
The other stories, while more polished, were not as compelling. Why not? My guess is that those writers were striving to be literary. Their first concern was to impress their readers, to razzel-dazzle them with fancy words and obscure allusions. The writer of the story I finished wasn't concerned with that. (Interestingly, she was one of the few writers in the collection without a MFA degree.) She just wanted to tell her story, and so she got on with it. She wrote simply, but honestly. When I came to the last page I felt as if I had gotten to know someone new.
So what is the moral? Is there one? What I learned from reading that collection was to listen to my inner voice and not be so self-conscious about making mistakes. Too often I try to be smart-alecky and a show-off. It's safer than saying what you really feel, especially if your thoughts might not meet with approval. I didn't learn to swim until I was in my twenties, and long after I was able to paddle my awkward way across the length of the pool, I clung close to the sides. There comes a day, though, when you have to head out of the shallows and into deep waters. Sure, you'll falter, but ultimately, you'll become a much better swimmer. Unless, of course, you drown.
I recently completed the first draft of a middle-grade novel, a ghost story, and I'm now in the process of revising it. So far I'm stuck. On the prologue. I've been endlessly changing it, writing draft after draft. But does the book even need a prologue?
I've always kind of liked prologues. They're the literary equivalent of a glass of wine or warm bath before lovemaking, there to help set the mood. On the net, though, prologues don't have such a good rep. Many people admit to skipping them and diving into Chapter One. Not me. I like to start at the beginning to make sure I'm not missing anything. That said, if the prologue lags, I might put down the book and pick up another.
I turned to the internet to get the scoop on these literary teasers. Here are some tips I gleaned from my search:
* Think about the purpose of your prologue:
Is it to provide atmosphere and set the scene? If so, be aware that many editors, agents, and writers suggest ditching your prologue if that's all it does. According to these folks, a successful prologue should add something new.
To add backstory that you don't want clogging up the first chapter? Be careful, though, not to overload the prologue. A successful prologue should be dramatic, not an information dump.
To add a character's viewpoint that won't be appearing in the novel itself? This to me seems the most compelling reason and it's the reason why I'm including one in my novel.
*If you do choose a prologue, keep it short. No one wants to plow through pages and pages before Chapter One even begins.
* Don't overwrite, and keep to the same overall style as the rest of your novel. Yes, it may be more atmospheric, but it should still be similar in style and tone of voice. A prologue written in flowery prose followed by a folksy "aw shucks" voice won't cut it.
For more advice on writing prologues, check out the following sites:The Prologue: When to Use One, How to Write OneStory Elements: Using a PrologueWriting Prologues: Do They Work?Pub Rants: Why Prologues Often Don't Work
Some lucky people are born with a GPS implanted in their brains. Others are DC, directionally challenged. Guess which group claims me as a charter member? I'm hopeless when it comes to directions, as are most members of my family. Whenever we go somewhere new, we resemble the Twits in a Monty Python sketch, each person darting off in a completely different direction. (Even more tragically this sometimes happens in places we're familiar with.)
When I wrote the first draft of my middle-grade novel, my dysfunctional affliction kicked in as I went about creating my setting. My story takes place in a fictional New England coastal town, loosely based on several I've visited. I blithely plunked down buildings, parks, and historical landmarks wherever I took a fancy, with no regard to how they stood in relation to one another. Now that I'm revising, I'm finding that this carefree approach isn't working. I'm as lost in my fictional world as I am in the real one--with no GPS to help me.
My solution has been to create a map to help me navigate my fictional landscape. A map forces me to decide where a house or statue or cemetery is actually located. I've also added roads and streets. Now when my character drives or bikes to town, I know where she's going and how long it will take her to get there. Another benefit is that I must name these places.
Since I first learned to read, I've always enjoyed fiction books with hand-drawn maps. Early favorites include Winnie the Pooh
, The Wind in the Willows
, and My Father's Dragon
. Treasure Island
, The Phantom Tollbooth
, and The Hobbit
also have amazing maps. But not all maps feature fantastical worlds. For instance, there's William Faulkner's map of Yoknatawpha County and Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Mystery novels sometimes include maps or floor plans. I'm thinking specifically of Agatha Christie, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Arthur Upfield, Ellis Peters, and Nevada Barr.
For an absolutely wonderful post on the subject, check out Maps of Fictional Worlds
. You'll find oodles of fantastic links to all kinds of maps, from childhood classics to adult contemporary novels. You can get lost there for hours. So bring a GPS!
I've always said reading is the best form of research for writers. When I need inspiration, I turn to a good book and just read. I learn the most that way. But I've learned that reading helps with revision too. How? If you want to know how your readers are going to look at your book, you have to read it as a reader and not a writer.
The best way to do this is to separate yourself from the manuscript for a while. Write something else and then come back to it. You have to almost forget the story so you can read it with fresh eyes. I can spot "telling" a mile away in someone else's book, but in my own, I have to step away and read like a reader to see it. You also have to keep in mind that the great backstory your MC has isn't known to anyone but you. You know what I'm talking about. All those details about their childhood that makes the MC who he/she is. If there's something you want the readers to know, you have to actually write it down. You may be thinking, "well duh," but seriously, I see this all the time when I edit for clients and I've even done it myself—just assumed the reader knows what I know. They don't. They only know what you tell them.
In the same token, your reader isn't inside your MC's head. If you don't share your MC's thoughts, your reader won't see them. Don't forget to have your characters react to things, either verbally, through actions, or through their thoughts. It makes your characters come alive on the page, which is what your readers want.
As a reader, I skip over mundane details, so when I revise as a reader, I delete those details. Why give readers a reason to skim your work? Then I replace those boring details with something my readers will actually care about.
Can you read your own work as a reader instead of a writer? Do you have any tips to share?
With everything that's happened since Goodreads changed their review policy, I decided it was time to share my thoughts on reviews. As an author, I depend on reviews. They sell books. But something we have to keep in mind is that reviews are not meant for the author. They're meant for other readers. When someone reviews your book, that person isn't writing the review with you in mind. They are sharing their thoughts on your book, and they are entitled to their opinion. No one, let me repeat that, NO ONE will ever write a book that every person on the face of the earth loves. It's not going to happen. You'll get great reviews, luke warm reviews, and even awful reviews. It comes with the territory. If you can't handle it, don't read the reviews. I don't. (Not unless my publisher posts them for me, because then I know they're safe.)
So what if you do come across a bad review? Do NOT comment on it. Please. While I don't think it's ever necessary for a reviewer to attack an author, I do feel people have the right to dislike your book. I haven't read the Hunger Games because the premise isn't something I can stomach, but at the same time, I give kudos to Collins for writing such a successful series. Millions of people love it. I won't even pick up the books. That's my right, and it's nothing against the author.
Now there have been some reviews on Goodreads that are downright nasty and do attack the author instead of focusing on the book. For that reason, I can see why Goodreads changed their policy. I don't think they are trying to stop people from giving their opinions. I think they are trying to end the war that's been going on on that site for a while now. But in the same token, even if I read a review that was so awful to me personally, as opposed to my book, I still wouldn't comment on it. There's no need to. It's not worth jeopardizing your reputation.
So my advice is to stay away from reviews. They weren't meant for authors anyway. We've already read our books and formed our own opinions about them. Let others have theirs.
What are your thoughts on authors commenting on reviews of their own books?
I think most of us like to be in control. I mean, that's a big reason why so many people are self-publishing. They want control over their stories, their release dates, their blog tours, etc. But...there are some things we just can't control, whether we are traditionally published or self-published.
First, you can't control sales. You can't. We can write the best book (in our minds) and we still can't make people buy it. Even if you offer it for free, you can't force people to download it so you can have a great rank on Amazon.
Second, you can't control reviews/readers' opinions. We love our books. Of course we do, or we wouldn't have written them. But not every reader is going to "get" our books or even like them.
Third, you can't control your release date. Publishers have to adjust release dates for a lot of reasons, and honestly this doesn't bother me much at all because they are doing what's in the best interest of the book and author. One of my 2014 titles was pushed back a few months, and I'm fine with it. The book will be better for it. But if you are traditionally published or if you self-publish, Amazon likes to do what it wants. They are known to release books early. We can't do anything about that.
Fourth, we can't always control our characters, nor do I think we should. I take it as a great sign when my characters throw my planning out the window and run with the story. It's their story, so I'm happy to let them tell it.
I could go on, but I'd rather hear from you. What are somethings we just can't control in this industry? And how do you handle them?
Let's face it, this industry is full of ups and downs. Right now, I have to admit I'm in an awkward period. I'm full of emotions, and I'm not always sure which way is up anymore.
Why am I confessing this? Because I don't ever want to come across as someone who has all the answers. I don't. I share my experiences, hoping others will find them helpful and also hoping to hear about your experiences.
Right now I'm trying to balance writing for different age groups and genres. It's tough. Really tough sometimes. I'm trying to balance writing and marketing. That's even tougher. And I have some things I'm dealing with that I can't tell you just yet.
So how do I get through it? I remind myself that after the down comes the up. One way or another, I'll figure this out and find my way up again.
How do you deal with the roller coaster that is this industry?